When Patrick and his family moved to Seattle two years later, I began to buy children’s books and recorded my voice on a Fisher Price tape recorder reading them to Patrick, and mailed them to him so he wouldn’t forget me. We’ve only seen each other about once a year during this eleven-year separation, but there always seems to be an instant bond when we’re together. Okay, I’m getting soppy now, so back to the story of the Dog and His Boy.
With help from a professional service dog trainer, Patrick and his mother trained Kudzu to help Patrick with all sorts of issues. If you’d like to learn more, you can read a blog about service dogs for kids with neurological disorders, called “A Time For Love,” here. Here’s a web site where you can read more about the role of service dogs for kids, “4 Paws For Ability.” And another web site that’s very informative, “Wilderwood Service Dogs,” . And an interesting news story about National Serivce Dogs is here.
Kudzu and Patrick arrived for Liturgy at St. John on Sunday morning, where I joined them in the narthex (back of the church) where we stayed during the service. After a while my Goddaughter, Sophie, joined us. She and Patrick quickly bonded as “God-siblings” and had fun teasing eachother. And Sophie did a good job of not bothering Kudzu while he was working.
Afterwards we went downstairs for coffee hour. That’s when the questions began, and I got a peek inside Patrick’s world, as curious but well-meaning folks tried to wrap their minds around the concept of a service dog for someone who isn’t blind. Patrick handled the questions with amazing poise, but after a while he asked for help keeping the crowds at bay. When Kudzu is wearing his vest, he is “working,” and shouldn’t be petted, as this distracts him from being attentive to Patrick’s needs.
We ate at Zinnie’s, where the staff was friendly and Kudzu behaved beautifully, sitting on the floor between Patrick’s chair and mine. (I forgot to mention that Father Basil is allergic to dogs… but he weathered the afternoon courageously!) At one point the waiter asked Patrick what kind of service his dog offered him, and Patrick’s sense of humor (he loves to tell jokes!) came through with this reply, “Oh, he just helped me get through a service this morning, as a matter of fact.” The blank expression on the waiter’s face begged for an explanation, so I jumped in with, “a church service,” and we all had a good laugh.
After lunch the birthday-gift shopping spree began. Game Stop is right around the corner from Zinnie’s so that’s where we started. I knew it would be interesting to see Father Basil (a kid at heart—aren’t all men?) in such a setting, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Wii football game was a big hit.
Later I asked Charli if it was always like this, everywhere she went with Patrick and Kudzu, and she said yes, that it’s virtually impossible to run “quick errands” without being rude to people who are always staring, wanting to pet Kudzu or ask questions. It made me think about how much I take it for granted that I can be “invisible” when I want to run in and out of stores or spend some time reading or writing in a coffee shop without interacting with people when I don’t want to.
So here’s to you, Patrick, as you begin your teenage years. I’ll always love it when you call me “Gomma Susan” (for Godmother Susan) like you did when you were little, and I treasure this picture of us at your baptism.
But I also treasure the way you’re still able to be a kid at heart, like when you’re teasing me with your antics, posing us for silly pictures in the parking lot at Zinnie’s. So, Happy Birthday, Patrick, and may God grant you—and Kudzu—many years!